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The Mass Media

UMB students speak out: Hanukkah

“Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech ha-olam a-sher ki-de-sha-nu be-mitz-vo-tav ve-tzi-va-nu le-had-lik ner Cha-nu-kah.” (Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.)

Such is a part of blessings that millions of Jewish people will recite this Friday night while lighting their first candles in the nine-branched menorah, a special candelabrum to celebrate the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah.

Also known as the Festival of Lights and romanized as Chanukah, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE.

How many of the UMB students, in condition of being non-Jewish, can know more than this general Wikipedia information about Hanukkah? The Mass Media’s Culture and Diversity section is on readers’ service to find it out.

The task is simple: Go around the campus and ask UMB students about Hanukkah. Show them the menorah image (the same one as in the middle of the article!) and ask what the image means to them. The aim is not to judge the UMB students: On the contrary, it is to free their minds and make them tell what they have in their “Hanukkah” or “Jewish” images. Mistakes are welcome here, as long as they will erase all prejudices.

“This is a menorah,” says Meagon Orr, a psychology student from Massachusetts, a couple of seconds after seeing the image. Sitting outside the benches of McCormack Hall, Meagon accepts to become the first volunteer to talk about a tradition about which she admits not to know much.

“Hanukkah is a Jewish tradition that is celebrated for eight days. But I forgot why,” she starts. “I don’t exactly know when it is celebrated but it should be every year around Christmas.”

Afterwards she reckoned that Jewish people were not supposed to work during Hanukkah and continued with how they spend their holiday: “They probably pray for purification. Some kind of karma. And then exchange presents with each other in each day of the holiday”

As a matter of fact, Hanukkah starts on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew Calendar, and may occur from late November to late December on the Gregorian Calendar.

But why is Hanukkah celebrated for eight days? Ned Lazarus, an Israeli part-time faculty member in the Dispute Resolution department, provides a common explanation: “According to Jewish scripture, Antiochus attempted to force the Jewish population in the ancient land of Israel to adopt Hellenistic culture and religion, erected pagan idols in the Temple, and forbade Jews from observing core religious traditions.”

“According to the traditional story,” he continues, “After Jewish guerillas succeed in driving the imperial forces out of Jerusalem, they found only a tiny bit of oil to re-kindle the “eternal light” in the Temple. However, the story goes, the oil burned for eight days and eight nights, a miracle commemorated by rituals observed on Hanukkah–lighting a candle for each of the eight nights, and eating foods fried in oil.”

Another detail is that Hanukkah is a holiday when Jewish people still continue working and not necessarily exchange presents or pray for purification purposes. However, most Jewish people observe Hanukkah in their homes, with family and friends, by lighting candles, eating together and playing holiday games.

“This image doesn’t say anything to me. I have never seen it in my entire life,” says Muammar Ahsan, an MBA major from India, who identifies himself as Muslim.

“I have no idea about Jewish rituals,” he continues. “Because in India there are a lot of people from different religious backgrounds but not Jewish people. We learn most of the things in school. But not about Judaism,” he points out the reason of his lack of knowledge.

Despite his limited knowledge, Muammar courageously volunteers for our quiz. Here are his answers: “I heard about Hanukkah though. It is celebrated every year in April, I guess. Most rituals are celebrated every year anyway. Hanukkah may be about sacrifice. I heard that ancient Jewish people were making sacrifices in temples. Maybe it is related to it. They may be fasting too. Since it is a holiday. People shouldn’t be working.”

As mentioned in the beginning, the aim is not to judge people here but to learn from our mistakes. After all, how many new things can we learn from Meagon and Muammar’s experience? Needless to say there is still a lot to be explained about Hanukkah in this article.

A last mystery that will not be solved here: Why is the ninth candle taller than all others? Maybe something for you to find out in Hanukkah this year.

Hanukkah EventWho loves latkes? Everyone loves latkes! Harvard Square celebrates the humble, delicious fried potato pancake in Winthrop Park on Dec. 13 from 2pm to 4pm. With the most delicious, most creative, best-looking latkes around, the free event features latke tasting and cooking demos provided by Cambridge restaurants that keep the oil coming.

Hanukkah FoodLatkes (a Yiddish term for Potato pancakes) are traditionally eaten by Ashkenazi Jewish people during Hanukkah. The oil for cooking the latkes is reminiscent of the oil from the Hanukkah story that kept the Second Temple of ancient Israel lit with a long-lasting flame that is celebrated as a miracle.


? 8 medium red potatoes, with peel, shredded ? 1 large sweet onion, minced ? 3 eggs, lightly beaten ? 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour ? 1/2 teaspoon baking powder ? 1 tablespoon dried rosemary ? 1 tablespoon salt ? 2 teaspoons ground black pepper ? 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice ? 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


1. In a large bowl, mix the red potatoes, onion, eggs, flour, baking powder, rosemary, salt, pepper, and lime juice. 2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Scoop about 2/3 cup at a time of the potato mixture into the skillet, and press down with a spatula into a pancake shape. Cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining potato mixture.


About the Contributor
Barış Munyakmaz served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Managing Editor: 2010-2011 Culture & Diversity Editor: 2009-2010